It seems that there is a general disregard for the power of marriage in our culture. With the divorce rate near 60% couples have a greater chance of splitting than they do going the distance. It absolutely breaks my heart when I see couples split. Of course there are a couple of legitimate reasons for couples splitting, but it’s still heartbreaking. God didn’t design us to be in temporary relationships. We were created to be part of a deep covenant; connected to our spouses in relationships that go far beyond any other relationship. But we don’t talk that way much. Certainly Hollywood doesn’t teach us about committed and enduring relationships. There must be a better way of doing things. I think God has set us up for success if we would just pay attention to what he tells us and learn to live it.
Here are five elements on the Bible’s perspective on the powerful bond we call marriage:
1. There’s no such thing as cheap sex. God says in the Old Testament, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.” (Exodus 22:16) Wow! One night stands? No such-a-thing in God’s community. Can you imagine if we lived by this principle in our country? The bars would be empty every weekend. Your wingman wouldn’t be the guy who helps you land the girl – he would be the guy to remind you, “You take her home tonight you’re stuck with her EVERY night.” Cheap sex hurts people and does not breed lasting, intimate relationships. Cheap sex does not promote family and thus weakens the nation (I believe strong nations are built on strong families, but that’s a post for another day). Cheap sex is looking for the positive elements of relationship without the commitment and struggle all genuine relationships must endure. In short – it’s not God’s ideal.
2. Marriage is designed to be a lifelong commitment. The Apostle Paul writes, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wished….” (1 Corinthians 7:39) I do believe that Jesus and Paul do talk about some exceptions whereby they permit divorce, but God’s IDEAL is still clear – marriage is supposed to be an enduring commitment between a man and a woman.
3. Your spouse influences your life (whether or not you realize it!). I once read that we are a composite of the five people we spend the most time with. That’s simultaneously an interesting and scary thought. But the people we “do life” with end up being who we are like. It’s no wonder that the Bible cautions us to choosing spouses that will bring us closer to God rather than drive us away from God. “Shall we then…act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” (Nehemiah 13:27). Or Paul: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers….” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Contrary to what some proclaim, these verses are not about racial purity. Even ancient Israel allowed foreigners to be part of the their community and God commanded justice towards them. No, the issue is about the gods that foreign people serve. People who serve different gods and have different spiritualities tend to pull us away from the One True God, Yahweh. This was Solomon’s downfall. The Bible actually doesn’t condemn his multiple wives. It condemns his choice of foreign women that led to worshipping false gods. The person we marry will end up influencing us, so choose wisely.
4. Marriage ought to be respected and honored and not taken too lightly. It’s a commitment and not something to fool around with. God tells us in the New Testament, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4) That certainly goes against the attitude of our day.
5. Marriage is not the same as merely cohabitating. Though there is no direct command regarding cohabitating, there is a story in the Gospel According to John in which Jesus encounters a women outside of a little town. She begins talking to him and tells Jesus that she has no husband. Jesus answers, “What you’ve said is true. You’ve had multiple husbands and the man you’re with now is not your husband. Yes, what you’ve said is true.” Jesus doesn’t see cohabitating on the same level as a committed, covenantal relationship established by marriage.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with an incredibly high ideal. God’s ways set the standard for us, and we have fallen short. We need a radical change in our perspective – we need to align our behavior with God’s ideals. It can start today. It can start with you. Are you married? Start looking at your marriage through the God’s perspective. Are you single? Start looking at your dates and relationships from God’s point of view. Do you have kids? Start teaching them what God’s ideal is so that they grow up grounded with a biblical foundation for what they desire in marriage. We can change our perspective. The question is – do we want to?
How about you? What do you think about God’s ideal for marriage?